Families of Israeli Terror Victims Express Outrage at Proposed Release of Palestinian Terrorists for Peace Talks
by Zach Pontz
Expected concessions on the part of Israel aimed at inducing the Palestinian Authority to enter into peace talks are rankling many in the Jewish State.
Israel has reportedly agreed to release at least 82 Palestinian convicts held since before the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993. Many of the prisoners were jailed for violent crimes, and the families of their victims, as well as the family’s of others murdered in the interim, are voicing their displeasure at the prospect of the prisoners going free.
“This is a humiliation to the families who lost their loved ones and a victory for the terrorists,” Shay Odesser, whose father Mordechai and uncle Shlomo were killed in 2002 by Arab gunmen in the West Bank, told The Algemeiner. “Terrorists should be in jail for the rest of their life with no option to get out.”
Arnold Roth, whose 15-year-old daughter Malki was killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem in 2001, was also irked by the report.
“Clearly this is not about making a calculated assessment of risk to Israelis versus reward to Israelis but something far more political, and therefore dangerous,” he told The Algemeiner.
“It’s tempting to quote the famous aphorism attributed to Einstein that defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Tempting, but not entirely accurate since it’s not clear to me that the authorities have any clear expectations when they decide to let unrepentant killers of Israelis out of prison. It’s an entirely political process dressed up as something else,” Roth said.
According to Israeli media reports, most of the criminals slated for release are 40 or older, and are serving long-term jail sentences – over two decades – without privileges such as conjugal visits or vacations. The list of convicts was presented by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Israel through US Secretary of State John Kerry. According to Abbas, their release was promised to him in the days of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
An official Israeli source claimed that the prisoners who are on the list are not a security threat in any way, i24 News reported.
But Roth, for one, challenged the premise.
“All the talk of them being old, ill, retired and perhaps anxious to get out there to play with great-grandchildren while there’s still energy in those old bones belies what’s actually happening,” he said.
Ron Kehrmann, whose 17-year old daughter, Tal, was killed along with 16 other people by an Arab suicide bomber on a Haifa bus on March 5, 2003 believes that the release will not only embolden future terrorists, but that it hurts any chance at a real, lasting peace.
“This undermines any incentive to find a solution for the conflict. If this was to be the reward after signing the (peace) agreement, I would not bless this action but I would be able to understand the reasoning for the release,” he told The Algemeiner.
Jacob Kimchy, who lost his father Rami in a terrorist attack on the Sheffield Club in Rishon Lezion in 2002, said that the release of the prisoners destroys any sense of justice that might help console the loved ones of terror victims.
“We want to believe that we live in a world of justice but we see the leaders of the world—Obama, Netanyahu—talk about releasing murderers. What justice do we have in the world? It’s crazy,” Kimchy said.
Kimchy, who founded One Heart, an organization that helps the families of terror victims, and who is the founding editor of TLV Faces, said that many of the people who lost family or friends in terrorist attacks oppose the move.
“It’s very very hard. They are all against it. As one of my friends said, ‘I can’t sleep at night and it makes my days very dark.’ Working with people through One Heart, people who lost loved ones to terror, you try to lift them up but news like this just destroys you.”
Roth echoes the sentiment: “Even if peace comes crashing in through the front door as a result of this latest round of unjust prisoner releases, what are we doing to basic notions of justice?” he asks.
Kehrmann acknowledges that prisoner releases and exchanges are not a new aspect of the conflict, but he says that such strategies have proven pointless.
“A release for murderers is immoral, against any value of a healthy society and never promoted peace, on the contrary it always fueled more aggressive actions.”
Israeli officials have indicated that the prisoners will be freed in phases, beginning 4-6 weeks into the negotiations, and continuing at 6-8 week intervals. Under Israeli law, prisoners’ names will be published 48 hours before their release to allow families of their victims to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.
Sapir Hazut, 20, daughter of Daniel Hazut, who was killed by terrorists 20 years ago in a shooting at a junction in Wadi Ara while working as a traffic policeman, told The Times of Israel she found it difficult to understand the prisoners’ release: “In the Shalit deal, my mother and I supported the release of my father’s murderers, because the life of a soldier was on the line.”
“But demanding to release these terrorists is without any purpose, since pardoning terrorists with blood on their hands completely contradicts the desire for peace,” Hazut said. “You don’t make peace with murderers. We must examine ourselves as a society if we forgive murder.”